Northeast and Middle Atlantic leaders exploring strategies to reduce emissions

By Huck Fairman

Recently, NOAA reported that this January was the hottest month in 141 years of record keeping—and that this year may well be the hottest year ever.

What’s causing this? Worldwide nations are obviously not adequately reducing their emissions. In this country, while our production of electric power has grown significantly greener with increasing usage of solar, wind power, and Natural Gas replacing coal, Americans, according to Justin Gillis of the New York Times, are increasingly buying “gas hogs,” – SUVS. That blind preference is pushing our emissions higher.

Fortunately, a number of Eastern states are responding to this threat caused by growing numbers of gasoline-powered cars and trucks. For several years, leaders in these states, including our Governor Murphy, have been seeking ways to reduce these emissions.

Two obvious strategies are to turn to enhanced mass transit systems and to electric vehicles. But neither are cheap and both would require public financing. Where then should that money come from?

Two sources of financing, whose ideas have been around for a while, are carbon taxes, and cap and trade, where permits for emissions levels can be bought and sold. Both approaches can produce revenue, and hopefully reduce emissions. The questions are: how much should the taxes and permits be, and what should be done with the revenue – which could be substantial?

The national and international, volunteer advocacy organization, The Citizens’ Climate Lobby has long advocated returning the taxes to tax payers as dividends, which could help middle and working class drivers bear the increased gas costs.

But other uses for the money could be: improving transportation systems and/or providing rebates to those drivers switching to EVs. (New Jersey offers such rebates!)

Still another strategy could be investing in internet capability, enabling commuters to work at home.

Surprisingly, perhaps, two Republican State Governors, Charlie Baker of Massachusetts and Larry Hogan of Maryland are, respectively, supporting the plan and considering support. New York’s Governor Cuomo is tugged between the needs to reduce emissions, improve subway and rail service, and acknowledge rural opposition to increased taxes for urban improvements.

Additionally, Justin Gillis notes that unfortunately the Koch Brothers’ (one died last year,) and allied groups are spreading disinformation in opposition to any programs that proclaim the need, and means, to reduce emissions.

In France, Gillis reminds us, President Macron’s poorly- presented program to place a green tax on fuel elicited fierce opposition from union members and the working classes. If he had considered returning the taxes through dividends, he might have won more support.

Gillis’s warning is that despite the well-publicized need to reduce emissions, and prevent temperature increases, (leading to droughts, wildfires, famines, migrations, and political unrest,) there remains short sighted opposition in many quarters. Too many people, to quote Gillis, still choose short-term profits over the livability of the planet. Let us fervently hope, therefore, that the leaders in our eastern states can prevail in the plans they are preparing to reduce emissions, for the benefit, indeed the survival, of us all.